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As the stereotypical subject of the occasional DIYer, shelving can not be overlooked on a DIY wiki.

Shelving is divided into 3 main sections:



Also known as particleboard


  • cheap
  • liable to sag


  • stronger than 12mm chip,
  • less sag prone

Laminated chip

eg formica, melamine, imitation woods

  • Most popular choice
  • prone to sag over time
  • edge and corners of veneer prone to lift or break off in time
  • not likely to last a lifetime.


  • good looking, though some don't like wood much
  • good wear characteristics
  • To avoid staining it needs finishing with varnish, wax, oil or paint.
  • Wood plank is prone to cupping
  • Shelving made from alternately oriented narrow strips glued together more or less eliminates the risk of cupping. Sold as pineboard, and preferable to plank wood.


Veneered Blockboard


A strong and stable shelving material, but more cost than the above options

Sheet Metal


Sheet plastic makes a weak shelving material, requiring support on all 4 sides, and is not recommended due to poor strength to cost ratio and uninspired looks.

Hollow Doors

Lightweight veneered interior doors make effective large shelves or desktops. The corrugated cardboard core gives them a relatively high strength per weight.

However they are large, and are not simple to cut down to lesser depth without causing significant damage or loss of strength.


Fixing types

Metal Brackets

Wood Brackets

Adjustable Brackets

Wood frame



The wider the span between supports, the less load the shelf will support, and the more likely it is to sag.


Back Bar

A strip of wood under the back edge of the shelf provides support for a 3rd side of the wood, increasing overall strength and reducing sag.

Front Bar

Size & Sag

A deflection of 1/32 inch per foot or more is noticeable.

A loaded bookshelf may support in the region of 10kg per foot of length.

Wood and chipboard typically sag 50% more than initial sag over time.

Calculating Sag

Sagulator sag calculator

link to a more accurate calculator

Unusual shelves


A yardstick makes an unusual shelf, suitable for displaying cards etc.


A strip of plastic guttering can be used as a shelf. Making it look good might be a challenge!


Cardboard strip is folded 3 times to make 4 long sides, and folded so 2 sides overlap, giving a stiff triangular section strip.

Not the most elegant solution, but free lightweight shelving strip is useful for some, and may be painted with oil based paints to make it look ok.

4mm shelf

A pretty shelf may be made from 4mm pine 4" deep supported by small decorative brackets every 18". Such shelves are obviously very lightweight and should only be used for light objects. Books would be too heavy for a 4mm shelf.

These nicknack shelves can go where there is not enough space to warrant a larger shelf, and are quickly made from leftovers.

Such shelves may also be used for storage of the smallest and lightest of diy supplies.

See Also

Brackets Shelving Racks

Keywords: shelf shelves shelving